Happy Anniversary Wherever You Are

Fifteen years, fifteen deployments, and another anniversary spent alone. I wish you were here. I wish we could toast to this achievement together. I wish I could hold you in my arms and whisper I love you in your ear, but I am here, and you are wherever you are.

DIGIDREAMGRAFIX.COM
DIGIDREAMGRAFIX.COM

You are wherever you are, and I am here … in the home we’ve built in Washington, in a rented house with the very best shady yard. I’m sitting here on the couch we picked in one crazy couch-sitting marathon afternoon in a too busy Ikea. Under a blanket you gave to me at Christmas because you know I love soft, cozy things.

You are wherever you, surrounded by shipmates, and I am here with the kids. Three beautiful daughters who never cease to amaze, inspire, and frustrate me. Our greatest achievements. So lucky.

You are wherever you are, and I am so proud that you are there. You are a fine Navy Chief, one of the best, and I hold my head high today because the man I married serves this country so proudly.

You are wherever you, and I am holding down the fort as always. Checking homework. Kissing boo-boos. Folding laundry (occasionally). I’ll keep things going, keep that ball rolling until you get home to push it with me.

You are wherever you are, and I wonder what that’s like. Alone today is tough for me here, but I can’t imagine it there. All alone in a crowd of sailors. Will you skip our day all together? Pretend it’s another day. Will you think of me when you drift off to sleep?

You are wherever you, and I can only dream of celebrating. If you were here, would we have dinner somewhere special? Would we sneak away for the weekend? Would we finally renew our vows as we have planned and waited for so many years.

You are wherever you are, and I miss you so completely. When you’re gone, I am half. I don’t breathe as well. My heart feels missing. On bad days I have no one to console me, and on good days, I have no one to share news with, and on everyday I drift off to sleep sleep hugging your pillow and praying for your safe return.

You are wherever are, but wherever that is, I know that you are loving me, and I am loving you as always. Since Orlando, since St. Marys, since long before May 22, 2000, and for so many years to come.

Dear Josh, I love you so much wherever you are.

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To my best friend. The naysayers said we’d never make it five years. Let’s make it fifty just to piss ’em off. I love you so very much more than the world could ever know.
xoxo, Me

 

MilSpouse Spotlight: Meet Rayna!

I’m really excited to share today’s MilSpouse Spotlight with you because not only is she a wonderful photographer and dedicated Navy Ombudsman, she’s also a very dear friend of mine! Rayna, of Anchored Owl Photography, is an amazing gal with a true love of capturing moments for families! But enough gushing on my part. Here’s was she has to say!
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Tell us a little about you!

My name is Rayna Bloxham, I am a mom to two (soon to be three) incredible children, a wife to the most handsome sailor around, and the lady behind the camera at Anchored Owl Photography.  I love spending time with my children, hanging out in the sun preferably at the beach, and traveling.

What’s your military story?

My sailor and I met almost 14 years ago at church in Groton, CT.  I was attending college in Rhode Island and he was attached to a submarine there.  We locked eyes in the hall and were fast friends.  We have been married since 2004.  It was definitely love at first sight and I still get those same feelings every time he comes home.

Tell me about your business.

I own Anchored Owl Photography.  My shoot a combination of lifestyle and posed portraits.  I like for my families to have photos of what life is exactly in the moment as well as the Christmas card type poses.  I feel like my style of photography is modern and whimsical.  I love working with families and especially love snuggling up to babies with photographing them. I have been in business in Washington for a year and a half but also worked in Hawaii and Italy before moving here.

What makes you passionate about your business?

I am passionate about photography because of all of the memories photos hold. I absolutely love looking at pictures and remembering everything about that moment in time. Photos are anchors for me. When I get caught up in things that are out of my control, I can look up at my photos, my family, and I am instantly anchored to what really matters.

Rayna of Anchored owl Photography
An anchor moment. This snapshot was taken by a friend during Rayna’s second pregnancy. This what a real surprise homecoming looks like! <3

What led you to become a business owner instead of working for someone else?

I needed control over my hours. My first priority is being a mother, and I was not willing to pay for someone else to raise my kids just so I could work. I wanted something flexible, and I wanted my job to have meaning. I chose photography, and especially children’s photography, because I enjoy children. They make me happy and my business makes me happy too.

If you could give a milspouse looking to start his or her own business one piece of advice, what would it be?

Think about the business you want to start and ask yourself if you would do it for free. Would you be willing to lose money on this? Are you willing to do this just because you like it or is it profit driven? If it is profit driven it may not be the right business, or time. Another piece of advice I have is to network. Just because someone is in the same business as you doesn’t mean they are your enemy. I refer other photographers often. There is enough business to go around, and kindness is always the best choice.

Isn’t she fantastic? The best, right? Rayna took the photos on the “Meet Jodi” page of my blog, and I looooooove them. So if you live in Washington and are looking for amazing photos, check out Rayna! You can see some of her beautiful work on her website at www.anchoredowlphotography.com and also click over and like her Facebook page! You can also find her on Instagram and Pinterest. While you’re there leave her some comment love and tell her Jodi sent you!

 

I Am, I Love, I Do: Meet Kendra

I have a special love for today’s guest blogger. Kendra is not only a veteran turned wife and milspouse blogger, she’s also an Air Force Key Spouse … which is the equivalent of a Navy Ombudsman so you KNOW I already love her! Check out her story below!

 

I Am, I Love, I Do: MilSpouse Guest Blogger
She's a veteran turned military spouse and blogger plus an Air Force Key Spouse! I just love her!
Hey!!! I am Kendra C! A wife, mom of a rowdy but adorable 3 year old boy, part time banker, Air Force veteran, lover of life and all things pink and blogger over at That’s Just Our Life. I write about our adventures in Fussa, Tokyo, Japan where we currently live, life with a crazy threenager and all of the random thoughts that come to my head. My blog started as a way to keep everyone at home abreast of our new life overseas but it has turned into a relaxing, therapeutic and super fun networking and friend making avenue for me.
I Am, I Love, I Do: A Milspouse Blogger Guest Series
I LOVE
I love so many things….first lets start off with obsessively taking pictures everywhere we go so that I can have these memories forever although if I’m being honest….let’s just say photography isn’t my strong suit. I love my job in banking and I intend to stay in this field for some time if I can. I love spring and flowers, music (singing and dancing which I shouldn’t do haha) and sunshine…they all make me a happy woman. I am a key spouse for my husbands squadron and I really enjoy interacting with the other spouses in the squadron and helping them acclimate to the base, a new country and getting them through deployments and other tough times. Lastly I love experiencing new things with my friends and family….new experiences with them are my lifeline
I Am, I Love, I Do: A Milspouse Blogger Guest Series
I DO
My wonderful husband Isaac and I met while we were both active duty air force stationed in California. We worked in the same building and were in the same group of dinner and a movie friends. We had our routine every two weeks, and I looked forward to it. After about a year I went TDY to Texas for 6 weeks, and we started talking in a way we never had before. From there we had a whirlwind romance…and I mean super duper quick. We started dating in October, got engaged in December and got married in March. It’s been 4 years of wedded bliss, unaccompanied tours, deployments, laughter and love and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
My favorite duty stations are Vandenberg AFB, California because I mean c’mon 3 beaches on base! How can you beat that…plus that’s where we met, fell in love and started our family and of course Yokota AB Japan because that was the first time I have really been taken out of my comfort zone and I got to experience a new kind of life with my love bugs.
 
All of the milspouses in this series live in such beautiful amazing places, and I’m starting to get a bit jealous! Good thing they are all bloggers so I can get my exotic locale fix every single day! You can get your fix of Kendra by stalking her around the net!
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5 GREAT Military Discounts for Your Summer Vacation

I’m just going to admit something here. My name is Jodi, and I’m one of those annoying moms who really look forward to summer vacation. I starting pinning and planning for all the fun as soon as Spring Break is over, and I do my best to fill our summer with adventures and activities that we just don’t have time for during the school year. That being said we’re still a military family earning military pay so my budget for summer fun isn’t as large as I’d like. A big part of my pinning and planning involve seeking our military discounts so I can s-t-r-e-t-c-h our money to the max! Here are 5 great military discounts you can use to liven up your summer vacation!

5 GREAT Military Discounts for Your Summer Vacation

America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

When I think of summer, I think of getting outside. (We live in Washington! We have to enjoy the sun whenever we get it!) What better way than by enjoying one of country’s beautiful national parks, and we can get in for FREE! This pass normally costs $80, but with a valid military ID, military and dependents are eligble for a FREE annual pass for entry into all national parks! Visit usgs.gov for more information!

Blue Star Museums

From Memorial Day to Labor Day thousands of museums across the cross open their doors to military members and their dependents for FREE through the Blue Star Museums program! On their website, you can search by state to see what museums are included in your area or anywhere that your summer vacation may take you! Over the past few years, we’ve visited the Seattle Art Museum (saved 50 bucks), the Portland Art Museum (saved 30 bucks), and the Museum of Glass (saved 45 bucks). My kids loved a museum trip, and I love that we can spend a few hours learning and having fun completely FREE!

Waves of Honor

The active duty service member plus up to three direct dependents can visit Seaworld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place for FREE in the Waves of Honor Program. Depending on your family size and where you live or are vacationing, this could save you hundreds of dollars this summer!

Tents for Troops

Are you a camper? Then this deal is for you! Tents for Troops aim is to say thank you to the men and women serving our country by helping them get some much needed R&R in the great outdoors. Check out their Camp Locations listing now and make sure to make reservation to get your next campsite for FREE!

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

What spells summer more than taking in a baseball game with the family? While not exactly FREE,  JD of A Semi-Delicate Balance, a great milspouse blogger, has gathered up ALL the details about military savings in professional ball parks in her post, “Best Military Discounts for Major League Baseball Games.” My sailor’s dream is to visit every.single.baseball stadium in the country. We’ll keep this list handy so we can actually AFFORD it someday!

Summertime is all about the fun for kids, but for moms and dads we have to temper that fun with a budget. A smart military mom or dad will do their research (and keep checking out Back on Land) to learn about the best discounts for military families!

{FIVE} Easy Ways to Save Money On Your Base

For me, a recurring theme in 2015 is saving money. Not only will my Sailor be heading to shore duty (which means we’ll lose that nice little chunk of change called Sea pay), but we are also staring down the barrel of sending our oldest daughter to college in the very near future so I’m looking for every possible way to tighten our belts, and so far I’ve found some of the easiest and most fun just behind the gates of our base!

The Commissary is an easy call, but do you know about these other ways to save money on your base?

{ONE} Family Fun … 

I’m totally guilty of not taking advantage of on base entertainment in the past, but these days I’m all about it! On my local base I can take my kids to the free Saturday kids movie, bowl with my whole family for an hour for six bucks on the first Sunday of each month, or swim for hours at the pool with my whole family for about six dollars. There are so many great deals in entertainment on my base, it’s almost crazy to think of spending those dollars anywhere out in town!

{TWO} Groceries …

You may not agree, but I almost ALWAYS save money at the commissary. I’ve done the price comparison, and the commissary came back the hands down winner. I won’t lie and say I do ALL my grocery shopping there, but I easily spend 90% of our grocery budget at the commissary for the amazing savings!

{THREE} Birthday parties …

I love throwing parties for my kids’ birthdays, but I hate how expensive it’s getting! Some local venues charge $200-300 just for the space and without including cake, drinks, or decorations. Not to mention that after buying all that you still need to buy presents! Kids’ birthday parties can be incredibly expensive, but there are great options on base from pool parties to bowling parties to really inexpensive movie theater parties. Depending on your party size, you could easily save $100-150 just on the venue!

{FOUR} Exercise for free!

I’m not exactly a gym rat, and honestly my favorite form of exercise is running which I don’t need any facility for at all. I do however live in the Pacific Northwest, and it does rain here pretty often. (Shocking! I know!) On those days I can take my running inside to the treadmill, and my gym membership comes at my favorites price: FREE! Our gym has all kinds of weights and machines as well as dozens of free or very cheap classes and also offers free consultations with trainers to help you meet your fitness goals!

{FIVE} Learn something!

I am always amazed at the classes offered for free on base. Compass is obviously my favorite (ask me why! please!), but Fleet and Family and the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society also offer amazing classes with topics ranging from budgeting to parenting to resume-writing. If you’re looking to improve yourself, Fleet and Family is a great place to start!

I’m looking to save money in a big way in 2015, but I don’t want to be miserable doing it. Having these base resources to help me along and give my family some free or really cheap alternatives to the out-in-town prices is amazing!

Does your family use the base resources available? What’s your favorite way to save money on base?